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Demystifying Sourdough – Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Sourdough Starter – Why It’s Better For You – And How To Start One

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Page 10

Troubleshooting Your Sourdough Starter

There are no bubbles in my starter – Your starter probably needs to be fed. Yeast can only produce carbon dioxide if it has a source of sugar to consume. Feed you starter with equal weight flour and water.

I fed my starter and there are still no bubbles or rise – If your starter is new continue to feed it based on the timeline instructions above. Hopefully within 14 days you will see signs of the yeast and bacteria colonizing, becoming stronger and more active. If the starter has been refrigerated for a long period of time it may take several feedings to “wake up”.

There is grey or brown liquid on the top of my stater – This liquid is called “hootch”.  It is a byproduct of an underfed over-fermented starter. It will smell strongly of alcohol and while unpleasant in appearance, cannot hurt you.  You can pour it off and discard half of your starter before re-feeding or stir it back into the starter for a very strong sour flavor.

There is mold on my starter – Unfortunately mold spores can contaminate a starter through the flour, water or air. In this case, it is best to discard the contaminated starter, wash all sourdough utensils thoroughly and replace it with a fresh starter. Keep your new starter as active as possible. The production of acids in the fermenting process will prohibit mold growth.

My starter smells like alcohol – When all the sugars in the flour have been consumed the acids will start to become alcoholic. A starter that smells strongly of alcohol needs to be fed! Feed your starter with equal weights flour and water.

My starter is bubbly but it won’t rise bread – In the early stages of sourdough baking this can be a real problem. It happens to all of us.  A sourdough starter needs to be used often, fed often and kept at a warm room temperature.

First, feed your starter with double feeding for three days.

Second, make sure to remove starter every time before feeding. This will give the remaining yeast more food sources and it will encourage the strong yeast to multiply.

Third, make sure you’re storing your starter in a warm environment that encourages the fermentation process. If you keep your house cool, try placing your starter or bread dough in the oven with the light on. Warming mats can also be purchased or dehydrators with a very low setting can work as well.


Troubleshooting Your Bread Dough

My dough is too sticky during the mixing stage – 1. is your starter 100% hydration? If not, it may have a higher hydration than the recipe that you are trying to duplicate. Check the recipe instructions to find out if your suppose to have a starter or leaven at a specific hydration. Most of my recipes call for starter at 100% hydration. Go to Page 8 of this guide for more on hydration levels.

2. Sticky dough is often a sign or an immature sourdough starter. If it seems like it stays sticky for more than 2 hours, even after kneading or shape and fold and it is not developing gluten or starting to rise, then you need to work on your starter. Make sure you feed your starter 4-8 hours prior to baking. It should double or triple in volume during this time. If it does not double or triple, start discarding and feeding that baby every 12 hours until it does! Go to page Page 8 for more on feeding starter.

My bread was rising fine but became very sticky and hard to work with at shaping time – This is a very common problem, especially with new bakers. All bread dough requires a very gentle touch at this stage. If you break the gluten stands at the shaping stage by overworking the dough it will get sticky, flatten out in a blob, and won’t look smooth. To avoid this problem pull the dough gently when shaping, just barely stretching it, if it starts to tear you are overworking it. If you feel like you didn’t get it tight enough, don’t worry about it, there is always next time, it’s much better to air conservative with your shaping then try to fix it later.

I need to fix my overworked dough – Gather the dough back into the bowl and let it rest for at least one hour or until you see it start to rise again. At this point, turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and very gently and loosely shape the dough. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes and gently shape it a little more, if you even see one tear, STOP.  Put the dough in a floured banneton, or loaf pan and let it proof again either at room temp or in the refrigerator as the recipe instructs. This might not be your best shaped loaf, it’s ok, this is how we learn to handle the dough!

Watch the way I handle the dough in this video:


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This is your guid to everything sourdough!


Page Guide

Page 1. Intro
Page 2. What Is Sourdough?
Page 3. Bread Terminology
Page 4. Why Eat Sourdough?
Page 5. Tools
Page 6. Starter Recipe
Page 7. Fresh Starter vs. Discard
Page 8. Starter Hydration & Feeding
Page 9. Favorite Recipes
Page 10. Troubleshooting Sourdough
Page 11.  Starter Insurance Policy
Page 12. Using Stale Bread
Page 13. Recipes You Don’t Want To Miss
Once you try this easy sourdough pie crust you will never go back. Fermented grains and real butter make this recipe a nourishing tradition.
Sweet And Buttery Sourdough Pie Crust - Traditionally Fermented For A Nourished Diet
Freshly fired, golden brown and crispy Parmesan and sourdough crusted chicken strips.
Parmesan And Sourdough Crusted Chicken Strips - Fried in Traditional Fat

Lina Herzer

Monday 3rd of August 2020

Hello, what a perfect site about sourdough! I am mainly interested in making the crackers for now. When I create the starter, can the discard from day 1 and onwards be saved in the fridge until I have enough to make a tray of crackers? or do I have to wait until day 14, discard? So on day three I would have 300grams of discard collected.Hope that makes sense. Thank you!

Butter For All

Monday 3rd of August 2020

Hi Lina!

It makes perfect sense. I usually recommend people start saving discard after around day 7, if and only if there is some significant growth and activity. You don't want to be keeping and using the starter before it's balanced correctly. It just won't taste good, especially if it's very sour, which is typical in the beginning until you cultivate the yeast!Get your starter going first, then when it starts doubling regularly it will be ready to use in all the recipes!

Hope that helps!



Sunday 26th of July 2020

Hi what's the difference between using brewer's yeast, or Fleischman yeast as against preparing the sourdough starter?

Athena Engel

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

I love your revamped site!! It’s so clean and fresh!! I have a question about my starter. I was given a 50% starter. I absolutely love it!! It is so relaxing to knead it while feeding, it’s easy to work with, I can let it sit in my fridge and rise so it doesn’t die in my hot home (90-95 degrees) and isn’t nearly as messy. I have one HUGE problem, however. I cannot find recipes that use it. Is there a way to use my starter in your recipes? All of yours look so darn good, I would really like to make them.


Thursday 9th of July 2020

Please help me my sourdough bread always comes out sour . i did float test . how can i get no sour sourdough bread . Thanks

Butter For All

Saturday 11th of July 2020

Hi Monika,

You need to work on your starter. Feed it every 12 hours to help balance the bacteria to yeast. A bacteria heavy starter will be more sour. You want to encourage the yeast by feeding it more often. Watch this video where I explain how this works -

Hope it helps,



Thursday 9th of July 2020

Hi thank you for sharing. Is there anyway to print all the pages in one document without cutting and pasting?

Butter For All

Saturday 11th of July 2020

Hi Beth,

I don't have this available to print at this time. But I may create a PDF in the future since I've had a lot of requests! Get on my mailing list and I'll make sure you get notified when it becomes available. Thanks for the feedback!